Extreme Job Search Strategies

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The BIG Day

Many people get nervous prior to interviews – and anxiety makes us forgetful. So before you leave the house:

  • Have extra copies of your resume with you, as well as the names, address, and telephone numbers of references. Bring samples of your best work if design or writing is involved. Bring a notebook and pen to take notes.
  • Double check the time of the appointment. Arrange to be there five minutes before the scheduled time.
  • Give the appearance of energy and self-confidence as you walk through the door. Smile and shake hands firmly, but don’t crush bones. Be genuinely glad to meet the interviewer as a person who can play an important role in your life. Be relaxed and maintain eye contact. Recognize that interviewing is a game at which you can win – and occasionally lose.
  • Visualize your success by setting the stage and playing the role (practice).
  • Know yourself.
  • Avoid fear and anxiety by practicing the art of self-confidence.
  • Leave cell phones and other electronic devices in the car. Even a phone on vibrate mode is a distraction.

WHEN YOU ARRIVE

Your Personal Preview Presentation

Your personal presentation is the image you create, involving the total picture you present during your interview. It begins with your introduction.

Your Introduction:

Be friendly, smile, be positive and enthusiastic. Shake hands firmly and make sure you obtain the name of the interviewer and his or her relationship/position in the organization (ascertain in advance, if possible). Break the ice with friendly chitchat as quickly as possible. As you enter the room, assess the interviewing environment. Where are you expected to sit? Endeavor to select a chair next to the inter­viewer or at the side of the desk, if used. Try to avoid sitting with a barrier, such as a desk or conference table, between you and your interviewer. If you have the option, choose to sit on couches or chairs versus a desk; choose the former to create a more open and cordial atmosphere.

Observe your surroundings--the furniture, wall hangings, pictures, awards, plaques, and school and training diplomas. Also note magazines and professional, sport, or hobby items on the desk and tables. They indicate the interviewer's interests. These tips can spark good conversation and build rapport. Keep the atmosphere cordial, and note how the interviewer begins to structure the interview.

Learn How To Sell Yourself

An interview is a time of mutual evaluation, when you and the interviewer look each other over to see if a "match" is possible. An interview is never one-sided--it is an exchange of information. But most of all, an interview is a chance for you to sell yourself. It is an opportunity for you to communicate exactly what you can do and why you would be an outstanding employee. Don't expect an interviewer to unearth your wonderful hidden qualities. It's up to you to have enough respect for your own abilities to be willing to sell yourself--professionally but convincingly.

Understand Your Qualifications

The first step is to understand your qualifications. The Shakespearean saying "to thine own self be true" definitely applies to job interviews. You must understand your strengths, weaknesses, and skills before the interview begins.

Know Your Strengths

You have already prepared your resume, listing your educational background, prior experience, and other relevant personal data. What makes you special? What jobs are you especially suited for by your education, experience, talent, and special skills? Do you have other life experiences that give you additional qualifications for a certain position?

Think about items that do not appear on your resume. The interviewer can easily check your resume for a cold recitation of your education and experience. The interview is the time to talk about the things that make you especially interesting and valuable to this particular company.

Understand Your Interviewer

Your next big unknown is the person who will be facing you in the interview. Of course, interviews may be conducted by more than one person, but even in those multiple-interviewer situations, the technique for understanding your interviewer is the same. In the latter case, there are simply more of them for you to understand.

The Interviewer's Job Is on the Line

If the interviewer makes a bad decision and hires the wrong person, it will reflect badly on him/her. So your first job is to make the interviewer comfortable with the conclusion that you are the best person for the job.

The Interviewer Wants to Like You

The interviewer probably wants to fill this job as quickly as possible. If the organization needs a new person, it probably needs that person now. You can make this process easier for both of you by presenting yourself in a manner that makes the interviewer understand that you are the right choice.

Make Him/Her Comfortable

Try to make the interviewer comfortable with you. Professionals call this “falling in step with the interviewer,” that is, making the interviewer feel that there is something about you that he/she feels comfortable with.

First Impressions Count

First impressions are usually lasting. That is why this section is devoted to making your first impression positive, appealing, and winning.

There are many words that can be used to describe the first impression you want to convey. These include polite, confident, sincere, courteous, tactful, actively interested, and interesting. Show enthusiasm about yourself and the job under discussion.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

Now you might be saying to yourself that you are a professional and know how to present yourself for an interview. Sometimes we all need a bit of reminding of what is appropriate attire. You can never change that first impression, so make it a great one. We know that many organizations today have gone to “business casual” attire but that doesn’t mean that you interview with the organization in business casual attire. You want to present yourself in a professional and polished manner. Below are some basics that we all need to remember:

For Women
  • Conservative business suits can be a skirt or slack suit, solid color, properly fitted. For a more formal company chose a skirt suit.
  • Blouse should complement the suit
  • Stockings should be flesh-toned and yes always wear, even in the summer!
  • Shoes should be moderate, no open toed, no “stilettos”, no trendy shoe styles. Stick to basic pumps in a neutral color; clean, no scuffs or worn-down heels or toes
  • Neat, professional hairstyles – get a color touch up if you need it – no “tropical colors” and skip the “trendy do”. Please – take the time to update your hairstyle. You have a lot of competition so don’t look like it is still 1970!
  • Natural looking makeup – avoid heavy makeup. Know the difference between “daytime” and “evening” looks. No makeup can look worse than too much, as it can make you look unpolished. If in doubt, get a free makeover.
  • Manicured nails polished in clear or light color; as for length stay short. Long nails send an “I’m not here to work” message.
  • Jewelry should be kept at a minimum – one ring on each hand – one set of earrings – small is best – less is best. Body jewelry should be avoided, and body art covered.
For Men
  • Conservative business suit, solid color – make sure it is a proper fit
  • White or pale colored long sleeve shirt
  • Tie should be conservative
  • Laced shoes that have been shined – no scuffs or worn-down heels
  • Socks should complement the suit
  • Leather belt that matches the color of your shoes – small buckle
  • Conservative hairstyle – make sure beards and mustaches are neatly trimmed
  • Manicured nails
  • Jewelry – watch and wedding ring; earrings, piercings and body art are big no-nos.

For both women and men we suggest that you not wear perfume or cologne, you never know who is allergic and what you think smells nice may be overbearing, or worse, a turn-off to someone else.

According to recent surveys of hiring managers:

  • Tattoos and body piercings can be a distraction. If the tattoo can be covered up by clothing then do so. The nose ring, eyebrow ring, lip ring, tongue stud, etc. need to come out. We are not suggesting that you be someone you aren’t, but you have to remember that a potential employer may not see this as professional and some have policies against showing tattoos or body piercings.

  • Smokers. Try and resist the urge to have a cigarette while in the car driving to your interview, you will reek like smoke and again you never know who is allergic. Remember, many hiring managers have a bias against hiring smokers.

  • Gum and breath mints. Don’t ever chew gum in an interview and make sure your breath mint has dissolved before you walk in the door.

  • The way you dress should be a reflection of who you are, polished and professional. You want the interviewer to see you as confident and qualified. Your efforts will pay off.

If you have ANY questions about a professional presentation and even if you think you “get it”, please consult an expert. It is amazing how many candidates get rejected due to how they presented themselves in an interview! Don’t let that be you!

Dress The Part

Dress the part and the part plays itself. First impressions do count. Those who hire are extremely busy and see many candidates. Standing out because of your outfit is definitely a way to be remembered… and rejected! Know the “uniform” and wear it proudly!

Know the exceptions to the wardrobe rule. These are few and far between. Highly creative art, fashion and entertainment jobs are about the only places you’ll find them. Keep in mind, looking the part of the job you hope to find is far less effective than “looking the part” from the perspective of the person who will hire you for it.

Even in fad and fashion industries, the human resources department still prefers a professional look. If you are not sure what attire is appropriate, click on the Dress for Success link for examples of professional dress.

Dressing For Interview Success

The moment we set eyes on someone, our minds make evaluations and judgments with lightning speed. The same is true for the potential employers who must assess us.

What you see is what you get!

“If a candidate can’t put himself together in a professional manner, why should you assume he can put it all together on the job? Unless you look the part, don’t expect an offer!” It may sound harsh, but that’s an accurate summary of most employers’ feelings on this issue. It’s a fair estimate that nine out of ten of today’s employers will reject an unsuitably dressed applicant without a second thought.

The respect you receive at the interview is in direct proportion to the respect your visual image earns for you before you have the chance to say a word. Employers rarely make statements about acceptable dress, certainly not to interviewees, but there is an unspoken rule that those who take their careers seriously will dress appropriately and those who don’t, won’t.

Even if the organization itself is laid-back, where everyone wears jeans, you should go to the interview dressed professionally, saving casual dress for when you get the job.

Our appearance tells people how we feel about ourselves as applicants, as well as how we feel about the interviewer, the company and the process of interviewing itself. Your overall appearance and presentation may well leave a more tangible impression than the words you say, since memory is rooted most strongly in pictures and impressions. At the very least, you can expect what you say to be strongly influenced in the mind of your interviewer by the way you present yourself.

Of course, the act of taking time to present an attractive professional image before you interview will add to your own sense of self-esteem and confidence. When you know you look right, you can stop worrying about the impression your clothes are making and concentrate on communicating your message. That is perhaps the greatest advantage of all.

You’re not giving yourself a fair break unless your total appearance presents you at your level best.

General Guidelines

Most of us are far more adept at recognizing the dress mistakes of others than at spotting our own failings. When we do look for a second opinion, we often make the mistake of only asking our friends and family. These people are, however, more in tune with our positive qualities than the rest of the world. They want to be supportive and do not want to hurt our feelings, and frequently they do not recognize how essential it is to reflect positive qualities in our dress. Better candidates for evaluation of your interview attire are trusted friends or professionals who have proved their objectivity in such matters.

Your clothes should be fresh.  If you have a suit, shirt or dress that you've worn once and feel that you can get another wearing out of it before sending it to the cleaners, get the additional wearing some other time. If you wear freshly cleaned and pressed clothes, you won't have to worry about your clothes being spotty, wrinkled, or smelly.

You should be fresh.  It should go without saying that bad breath, dandruff, body odor, and dirty nails have the potential to undo all your efforts at putting across a good first impression. These related problems denote an underlying professional slovenliness, which an interviewer will feel is likely to reflect in your work. Don’t ask yourself whether any friend or colleague has actually come out and suggested that you pay more attention to these matters; ask yourself how you felt the last time "you" had to conduct business of any sort with a person who had a hygiene problem. Then resolve to never leave that kind of impression.

Do not wear perfume and avoid any scented lotions/creams, etc.  If the interviewer doesn’t care for the scent, he/she will have a negative impression of you – without even knowing why! Remember, scent is a very personal choice. Also, some scents linger in a room. You don’t want to be remembered as “the applicant that left that heavy perfume…”

The fact is that many good applicants are turned down because of poor appearance. Interestingly enough they are usually among the ones who ignore any counseling in this respect. Even if you are fully aware of how important a role good appearance plays in an interview, a quick review will serve as a helpful reminder.

FILLING OUT AN APPLICATION

When you fill out an application for employment, whether it is online or when you interview with a company, it is very important you be honest and accurate with your information.

Most employers are doing a significant amount of background checking, this includes reference checking, criminal checks, credit checks and drug testing. When you “fudge” on your application or resume and a potential employer uncovers the truth, they will label you as an untrustworthy applicant. Most won’t even tell you that they found out that you “fudged”, they will just give you one of those standard “we’re not interested” letters or they may not respond to you at all. Also, remember even if you are hired and an employer finds out after the fact that you falsified any information they can and probably will terminate you.

Here are some tips for filling out an application:

  • Have a sheet of paper or resume with all of your personal information listed; you don’t want to have to be “guessing” about your employment information.
  • Dates of Employment – if you are not sure contact your former employer and make sure that what they have on file and what you have are the same. If the employer has closed and you have no one to contact, make sure that you let the potential employer know that you may be off on your dates. Remember, list your most recent job first and only go back 10 years.
  • Title – again, what is the exact title the employer has on file for you
  • Salary – this should be your base salary, if you were non-exempt you need to indicate if you had overtime. If you received any kind of bonus don’t include with your base salary; add that as additional compensation. Most verification systems only give your base pay and you don’t want a potential employer to think you are trying to present your salary as higher than it actually was.
  • Duties – are you and the employer going to say the same thing? (Don’t “embellish”)
  • Education – if you haven’t completed your degree, then don’t say you have; employers will do a degree check.
  • Reason for Leaving – you want to be honest but don’t use “left for personal reasons” or “no growth potential”. These statements are a red flag and usually mean something worse. A skilled interviewer will figure it out, so use TBD (to be discussed) and discuss at the interview. We know that it can be difficult to discuss a termination or any other negative reason for leaving a job, but honesty is the best policy, again enter TBD and discuss with the employer at the interview. If you have ANY questions about this please discuss with a Staffing Solutions, Inc. staff member.
  • References – employers are typically looking for managers or supervisors. Vendors are also acceptable. If you have done volunteer work you can also use members of the organization that you have helped. Before you use someone as a reference make sure you ask for their permission and find out how they want to be contacted – via phone or email, during or after work hours.
  • A note about references; many companies have a “no reference policy” and will only verify dates of employment, title, salary and reason for leaving. Many empathic supervisors and mangers want to assist; however, they must follow company policy. You can get around this by asking your former supervisor for a letter of recommendation and suggest to the potential employer to call the supervisor to verify that they did indeed write the letter.
  • Remember when you fill out an application, read and follow all of the instructions.
  • Don’t leave spaces blank. If you are filling out an online application check your information on each page before you click the next button; sometimes you can’t go back.
  • Proofread and use spell check.
  • If you don’t think you can complete the online application all at one time then save it and go back to finish.
  • The application may include questions or tests. Read them carefully and don’t rush your answers.
  • Don’t forget to attach your resume if that is a requirement.
  • Use a professional sounding e-mail address.
  • Read all of the fine print before you submit your application. Make sure that all of your answers are accurate and truthful.
PERSONALITY TESTING/PROFILING

The next time you go on a job interview, in addition to the usual “why do you want to work here?” discussions, be prepared to take a “personality profile” with questions that seem a little odd. For example, would you describe yourself as direct, gregarious, patient, or accurate? Or, to what degree do you agree with the statement, “I take things as they come, rather than think ahead a lot”?

If it seems like psycho-babble, well, it is. The use of these kinds of behavioral or personality assessments, which ebbs and flows along with other corporate trends, is on the rise again.

According to recent surveys, more than a third of employers surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management were giving job candidates personality tests, with more planning to start in the coming year. And 36 percent more were formally testing employees for organizational fit by assessing things like team orientation, entrepreneurial inclinations, and comfort with a “traditional” work environment.

One reason these tests are back in vogue, according to executives who use them, is that the more sophisticated ones have become increasingly accurate and adaptable to different industries and job descriptions. You can have a database full of the traits of salespeople who are successful and match a candidate for a sales position against that. Technology has made the tests easy and cheap to administer.

Employers don’t mind putting candidates through these extra paces, which they believe break through the upbeat, earnest, and diligent façade everyone puts on for job interviews to ferret out a person’s true work style and inclinations.

Employers have nixed candidates because a personality test indicated they weren’t “as motivated as we would have liked” – or not a “cultural fit.”

Applicants for lower-level jobs are likely to sit in front of a computer for 20 minutes to an hour to answer multiple-choice questions that will tell employers whether they are suitable and outgoing for a salesclerk position, or if they deflect stress well enough to last long in a call center. High level executives are likely to take a similar test as part of a battery of diagnostics that could include a chat with a psychologist and other assessments. Companies are trying to literally get at how a person is hard wired: How they think, what motivates them, how self-aware they are, their emotional intelligence, their work style and how they use certain skills in certain situations.

Predictably, people who give the tests say it doesn’t pay to try to game them by giving what you think are the right answers. Coaches and outplacement experts who advise job seekers also say honesty is the best policy. For one thing, the tests are structured to detect possible cheating. For any given character trait, say independence, there’s an optimal amount. If a person seems to be really extreme, well, most people aren’t that extreme, so it suggests they tried to answer all the questions in a positive but not very realistic way.

More importantly, the tests aren’t about aptitude or intelligence so much as fit. If the test steers the company away from you, it might be for the best. If you are a Type B and they really want Type A’s, then landing the job could be a miserable experience.

Advice for someone facing a similar battery of tests: Before you go in, spend a bit of time thinking about yourself. What are your talents, your interests, what do you love doing, and what do you not like doing? Think back over your career and experiences and what you learned about yourself from them. Don’t try to anticipate what they want to hear – the value comes in being transparent.

If you’re honest with yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses, this test isn’t going to tell you anything you don’t already know. And if you’ve handled the rest of the interview properly (and honestly), it should only confirm your prospective employer’s good impression of you.

ADDITIONALLY:

Many companies now require you to submit to a:

  • Criminal background check
  • Degree or certification check
  • Credit check
  • Drug test
If you are personally offended by any of the above requests, please find out what type of background checks the company does BEFORE accepting the interview. There is no need to waste anyone’s time.

BODY LANGUAGE

Given the choice of going blind or going deaf, which would you choose? The vast majority of us rely to a remarkable degree on our ability to gather information visually. This really is not all that surprising; humans have been sending and receiving nonverbal signals from the dawn of the species.

In fact, body language is one of the earliest methods of communication we learn after birth. We master the spoken word later in life, and in so doing we forget the importance of nonverbal cues. But the signals are still sent and received (usually at a subconscious level), even if most of us discount their importance.

For those seeking professional employment, it is extremely important that the correct body language be utilized. If your mouth says “Hire me,” but your body says something quite different, you are likely to leave the interviewer confused. He or she will think, “The right answers came out, but there was something about that candidate that just rubbed me the wrong way.” Such misgivings are generally enough to keep any candidate from making the short list.

When we are in stressful situations (and a job interview certainly qualifies), our bodies react accordingly. The way they react can send unintentional negative messages. The interviewer may or may not be aware of what causes the concern, but the messages will be sent, and our cause will suffer.

When our body language complements our verbal statements, our message will gain a great deal of impact. But when our body language contradicts what we say, it is human nature for the interviewer to be skeptical. In short, learning to control negative body movements during an interview – and learning to use positive body signals – will greatly increase the chances for job interview success.

Under The Microscope

What is the interviewer watching us for during the interview? The answer is: clues. The mystery for the interviewer is, what kind of an employee would we make? We need to provide the clues most likely to prompt a decision to hire.

When we are invited in to an interview, we are probably safe in assuming that our interviewer believes we meet certain minimum standards, and could conceivably be hired. Once in the door, we can assume that we will be scrutinized in three main areas:

Ability (Can we do the job?)

  • Willingness (Will we do the job?)
  • Manageability (Will we be a pleasure or a pain to have around?)

Appropriate control and use of our gestures can help us emphasize positive features of our personality in these key areas – and also project integrity, honesty, attention to detail, etc.

Studies have found that over 50% of all effective communication relies on body language. Since we can expect interviewers to respond to the body language we use at the interview, it is up to us to decide what messages we want them to receive.

There are also studies that suggest that the impression we create in the first few minutes of the interview are the most lasting. Since the first few minutes after we meet the interviewer is a time when he or she is doing the vast majority of the talking, we have very little control over the impression we create with our words. It’s up to our bodies to do the job for us.

The Greeting

Giving a “dead fish” handshake will not advance your chances; neither will the opposite, the iron-man bone crusher grip.

The ideal handshake starts before the meeting actually occurs. Creating the right impression with the handshake is a three-step process. Be sure that:

  1. Your hands are clean and adequately manicured.
  2. Your hands are warm and reasonably free of perspiration. (Run them under warm water/use a little powder if necessary)
  3. The handshake itself is executed professionally and politely, with a firm grip and a warm smile.
Taking Your Seat

Encroaching on another’s “personal zone” is a bad idea in any business situation, but it is particularly dangerous in an interview. The 30” standard is a good one to follow: it is the distance that allows you to extend your hand comfortably for a handshake. Maintain this distance throughout the interview, and be particularly watchful of intrusions during the early stages when you meet, greet, and take a seat.

Facial/Head Signals

Once you take your seat, you can expect the interviewer to do most of the talking. You can also probably expect your nervousness to be at its height. Accordingly, you must be particularly careful about the nonverbal messages you send at this stage.

While all parts of the body are capable of sending positive and negative signals, the head (including the eyes and mouth) is under closest scrutiny. Most good interviewers will make an effort to establish and maintain eye contact and thus you should expect that whatever messages you are sending from the facial region will be picked up, at least on a subliminal level.

Our language is full of expressions testifying to the powerful influence of facial signals. When we say that someone is shifty-eyed, is tight-lipped, has a furrowed brow, flashes bedroom eyes, stares into space, or grins like a Cheshire cat, we are speaking in a kind of shorthand, and using a set of stereotypes that enables us to make judgments--consciously or unconsciously--about the person’s abilities and qualities. Those judgments may not be accurate, but they are usually difficult to reverse.

Tight smiles and tension in the facial muscles often bespeak an inability to handle stress; little eye contact can communicate a desire to hide something; pursed lips are often associated with a secretive nature; and frowning, looking sideways, or peering over your glasses can send signals of haughtiness and arrogance. Hardly the stuff of which winning interviews are made!

The Eyes

Looking at someone means showing interest in that person, and showing interest is a giant step forward in making the right impression. (Remember, each of us is our own favorite subject!)

Your aim should be to stay with a calm, steady, and non-threatening gaze. It is easy to mismanage this, and so you may have to practice a bit to overcome the common hurdles in this area. Looking away from the interviewer for long periods while he is talking, closing your eyes while being addressed , repeatedly shifting focus from the subject to some other point: these are likely to leave the wrong impression.

Of course, there is a big difference between looking and staring at someone! Rather than looking the speaker straight-on at all times, create a mental triangle incorporating both eyes and the mouth; your eyes will follow a natural, continuous path along the three points.

Maintain this approach for roughly three-quarters of the time; you can break your gaze to look at the interviewer's hands as points are emphasized; or to refer to your note pad. These techniques will allow you to leave the impression that you are attentive, sincere, and committed. Staring will only send the message that you are aggressive or belligerent.

Be wary of breaking eye contact too abruptly, and of shifting your focus in ways that will disrupt the atmosphere of professionalism. Examining the interviewer below the head and shoulders, for instance, is a sign of over familiarity. (This is an especially important point to keep in mind when being interviewed by someone of the opposite sex.)

The eyebrows send messages as well. Under stress, your brows may wrinkle; as we have seen, this sends a negative signal about our ability to handle challenges in the business world. The best advice on this score is simply to take a deep breath and collect yourself. Most of the tension that people feel at interviews has to do with anxiety about how to respond to what the interviewer will ask. You are prepared, so relax.

The Head

Rapidly nodding your head can leave the impression that you are impatient and eager to add something to the conversation--if only the interviewer would let you. Slower nodding, on the other hand, emphasizes interest, shows that you are validating the comments of your interviewer, and subtly encourages him to continue.

Tilting the head slightly, when combined with eye contact and a natural smile, demonstrates friendliness and approachability. The tilt should be momentary and not exaggerated; almost like a bob of the head to one side. (Do not overuse this technique!)

The Mouth

One guiding principle of good body language is to turn upward rather than downward. Look at two boxers after a fight: the loser is slumped forward, brows knit and eyes downcast, while the winner's smiling face is thrust upward and outward. The victor's arms are raised high, his back is straight , his shoulders are square. In the first instance the signals we receive are those of frustration, belligerence, and defeat; in the second, happiness, openness, warmth and confidence.

Your smile is one of the most powerful positive body signals in your arsenal; it best exemplifies the up-is-best principle, as well. Offer an unforced, confident smile as frequently as opportunity and circumstances dictate. Avoid at all costs the technique some applicants use: grinning idiotically for the length of the interview , no matter what. This will only communicate that you are either insincere or not quite on the right track.

It's worth remembering that the mouth provides a seemingly limitless supply of opportunities to convey weakness. This may be done by touching the mouth frequently (and, typically, unconsciously); "faking" a cough when confronted with a difficult questions; and/or chewing on your lips absentmindedly. Employing any of these "insincerity signs" when you are asked about, say, why you lost your last job, will confirm or instill suspicions about your honesty and effectiveness.

Body-Signal Barricades

Folding or crossing your arms, or holding things in front of your body, is a wonderful way to send negative messages to the interviewer. The signal is, essentially, "I know you're there, but you can't come in. I'm nervous and closed for business."

It is bad enough to feel this way, but worse to express it with blatant signals. Don't fold your arms or "protect" your chest with hands, clipboard, briefcase, or anything else during the interview. (These positions, in fact, should be avoided in any and every business situation).

Hands

As we have seen, a confident and positive handshake breaks the ice and gets the interview moving in the right direction. Proper use of the hands throughout the rest of the interview will help to convey an above-board, “nothing to hide” message.

Watch out for hands and fingers that take on a life of their own, fidgeting with themselves or other objects such as pens, paper, or your hair. Pen tapping is interpreted as of an impatient person; this is an example of an otherwise trivial habit that can take on immense significance in an interview situation. Rarely will an interviewer ask you to stop doing something annoying; instead, he’ll simply make a mental note that you are an annoying person, and congratulate himself for picking this up before making the mistake of hiring you.

There are many negative hand messages. Some of the most dangerous are listed below:
  • You can demonstrate smugness and superiority by clasping your hands behind your head. (You’ll also expose any perspiration marks that are under your arms.)
  • A man can show insecurity by simply adjusting his tie, and that’s not the worst of it: when interviewing with a woman, his gesture will show something other than a businesslike interest in the interviewer.
  • Slouching in your chair, with hands in pockets or thumbs in belt, can brand you as insolent and aggressive--and when this error is made in the presence of an interviewer of the opposite sex, it carries sexually aggressive overtones as well. (Beware, too, of sending these signals while you are walking on a tour of the facility.)
  • Pulling your collar away from your neck for a moment may seem like an innocent enough reaction to the heat of the day, but the interviewer might assume that you are tense and/or masking an untruth. (The same goes for scratching the neck during, before, or after your response to a question.)
  • Moving your hands toward a feature you perceive as deficient is a common unconscious reaction to stress. A man with thinning hair, for example, may thoughtlessly put his hand to his forehead when thinking about how to respond to the question, “Why aren’t you earning more at this point in your career?” This habit may be extremely difficult for you to detect in the first place, much less reverse, but make the effort. Such protective movements are likely to be perceived – if only on a subliminal level – as acknowledgements of low status.
  • Touching your face or hair sends a message of insecurity – keep your hands in your lap if you have that tendency!
  • Picking at invisible bits of fluff on your suit looks like what it is: a nervous tic. Keep your focus on the interviewer. (If you do have some bit of lint somewhere on your clothing, the best advice is usually to ignore it rather than call attention to it by brushing it away.)
By contrast, using the hands in a positive way can further your candidacy. Here are some of the best techniques.
  • Subtly exposing your palms now and then as you speak can help to demonstrate that you are open, friendly, and have nothing to hide. (The technique is used to great effect by many politicians and television talk show hosts; watch for it.)
  • When considering a question, it can sometimes be beneficial to “steeple" your fingers for a few seconds as you think and when you first start to talk. Unless you hold the gesture for long periods of time, it will be perceived as a neutral demonstration of your thoughtfulness. (Of course, if you overuse this or hold the position for too long, you may be taken as condescending.) Steepling will also give you something constructive to do with your hands; it offers a change from holding your pad and pen.
Seating

The signals you send with your body during an interview can be affected by the type of chair you sit in. If you have a choice, go with an upright chair with arms. Deep armchairs can restrict your ability to send certain positive signals, and encourage the likelihood of negative ones. (They're best suited for watching television, not for projecting the image of a competent professional.)

There is only one way to sit during an interview; bottom well back in the chair and back straight. Slouching, of course, is out, but a slight forward leaning posture will show interest and friendliness toward the interviewer. Keep your hands on the sides of the chair; if there are no arms on the chair, keep your hands in your lap or on your pad of paper.

Feet

Some foot signals can have negative connotations. Women and men wearing slip-on shoes should beware of dangling the loose shoe from the toes; this can be quite distracting and, as it is a gesture often used to signal physical attraction, it has no place in a job interview. Likewise, avoid compulsive jabbing of floor, desk, or chair with your foot; this can be perceived as a hostile and angry motion, and is likely to annoy the interviewer.

Walking

Many interviews will require that you walk from point A to point B with the interviewer, either on a guided tour of facilities or to move from one office to another. If you are interviewing in a restaurant, you will have to walk with your interviewer to and from the dining facility. How long these walks last is not as important as how you use them to reinforce positive traits and impressions.

Posture is the first concern. Keep your shoulders back, maintain good posture, smile, and make eye contact when appropriate. Avoid fidgeting with your feet as you move, rubbing one shoe against the other, or kicking absentmindedly at the ground as you stand: these signals will lead others to believe that you are anxious, insecure, or immature.

Crossing your arms or legs while standing carries the same negative connotations as it does when you are sitting. Putting your hands in your pockets is less offensive, assuming you don’t jangle keys or coins, but men must be careful not to use the hands-on-hips or thumbs-in-belt postures discussed earlier. These send messages that you are aggressive and dominating.

Seven Signals For Success

So far we have focused primarily on the pitfalls to avoid; but what messages should be sent, and how? Here are seven general suggestions good body language for the interview.

  1. Walk slowly, deliberately, and tall upon entering the room.
  2. On greeting your interviewer, give (and, hopefully, receive) a friendly "eyebrow flash": that brief, slight raising of the brows that calls attention to the face, encourages eye contact, and (when accompanied by a natural smile) sends a strong positive signal that that interview has gotten off to a good start.
  3. Use mirroring techniques. In other words, make an effort--subtly!--to reproduce the positive signals your interviewer sends. (Of course, you should never mirror negative body signals.) Say the interviewer leans forward to make a point; a few moments later, you lean forward slightly in order to hear better. Say the interviewer leans back and laughs; you "laugh beneath" the interviewer’s laughter, taking care not to overwhelm your partner by using an inappropriate volume level. This technique may seem contrived at first, but you will learn that it is far from that, if only you experiment a little.
  4. Maintain a naturally alert head position; keep your head up and your eyes front at all times.
  5. Remember to avert your gaze from time to time so as to avoid the impression that you are staring; when you do so, look confidently and calmly to the right or to the left; never look down.
  6. Do not hurry any movement.
  7. Relax with every breath.
Putting It All Together

We have discussed the individual gestures that can either improve or diminish your chances of success at the interview. Working in our favor is the fact that positive signals reinforce one another; employing them in combination yields an overwhelming positive message that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Now it is time to look at how to combine the various positive elements to send a message of competence and professionalism.

Here is the best posture to aim for during the interview:

Sit well back in the chair; allow the back of it to support you and help you sit upright. Increase the impression of openness (“I have nothing to hide!") by unbuttoning your jacket as you sit down. Keep your head up. Maintain eye contact a good portion of the time, especially when the interviewer begins to speak and when you reply. Smile naturally whenever the opportunity arises. Avoid folding your arms; it is better to keep them on the arms of your chair. Remember to show one or both of your palms occasionally as you make points; but do not overuse this gesture.

Open For Business

The more open your body movements during the interview, the more you will be perceived as open yourself. Understanding and directing your body language will give you added power to turn interviews into cooperative exchanges between two professionals.

Just as you interpret the body language of others, both positive and negative, so your body language makes an indelible impression on those you meet. It tells them whether you like and have confidence in yourself, whether or not you are pleasant to be around, and whether you are more likely to be honest or deceitful. Like it or not, our bodies carry these messages for the world to see.

Job interviews are reliable in one constant: they bring out insecurities in those who must undergo them. All the more reason to consciously manage the impressions the body sends.

INTERVIEW CLOSING AND FOLLOW UP

The Graceful Exit

A signal that the interview is drawing to a close comes when you are asked whether you have any questions. Ask questions, and by doing so, highlight your strengths and show your enthusiasm.

DON’TS
  • Don't discuss salary, vacation, or benefits. It is not that the questions are invalid, just that the timing is wrong. Bringing such topics up before you have an offer is asking what the company can do for you. Instead, you should be saying what you can do for the company. Those topics are part of the negotiation. Remember, without an offer you have nothing to negotiate.
  • Don't press for an early decision. Of course you should ask, "What is the next step?” But don't press it. And don't try to use the “other opportunities-I-have-to-consider" gambit as leverage when no such offers exist--that annoys the interviewer, makes you look foolish, and may even force you to negotiate from a position of weakness.
  • Don't show discouragement. Sometimes a job offer can occur on the spot. Usually it does not. So don't show discouragement if you are not offered the job at the interview, because discouragement shows a lack of self-esteem and determination. Avoiding a bad impression is merely the foundation of leaving a good one, and the right image to leave is one of enthusiasm, guts, and openness—the same traits you have been projecting throughout the interview.
  • Don't ask for an evaluation of your interview performance. That forces the issue and puts the interviewer in an awkward position. You can say that you want the job, and ask what you have to do to get it.
DO’S
  • Ask appropriate job-related questions. When the opportunity comes to ask any final questions, review your notes. Bring up any relevant strengths that haven't been addressed.
  • Show decisiveness. If you are offered the job, react with enthusiasm. Then sleep on it. If it's possible to do so without making a formal acceptance, ask to lock the job up now and put yourself in control; you can always change your mind.
  • When you are interviewed by more than one person, be sure you have the correct spelling of their names. "I enjoyed meeting your colleagues, Ms. Smith. Could you give me the correct spelling of their names, please?" This question will give you the names you forgot in the heat of battle and will demonstrate your consideration.
  • Review the job's requirements with the interviewer. Match them point by point with your skills and attributes.
  • Find out whether this is the only interview. If so, you must ask for the job in a positive and enthusiastic manner. Find out the time frame for a decision and finish with: "I am very enthusiastic about the job and the contributions I can make. If your decision will be made by the fifteenth, what should I do in the meantime to demonstrate my interest?”
  • If there will be a next interview: When there are subsequent interviews in the hiring procedure, ask when you will hear about the next interview in the same honest and forth­right manner.
  • Always depart in the same polite and assured manner you entered. Look the interviewer in the eye, put on a smile (there's no need to grin), give a firm handshake, and say, "This has been an exciting meeting for me. This is a job I can do, and I feel I can contribute to your goals, because the atmosphere here seems conducive to doing my very best work. I hope to hear from you soon!”
Follow-Up Procedures

It’s essential to respond within 24 hours in writing with a thank you follow-up letter (for an example click here). Your letter should thank the interviewer for his or her interest and time, reiterate your interest in the position, and briefly highlight your suitability for the position, the contributions you can make to the company, and any other noteworthy comments. The letter should be one page or less, with good organization, good grammar, and absolutely no spelling errors or typos.

How well you follow up, including your attention to references­ – “indirectly orchestrating the follow-up process”-- is an important part of your presentation and can have considerable impact on the final decision process. It's a time when you can display your capabilities, leadership, poise, creativity, and thoughtfulness.

Should the interview not result in an offer for the specific position you interviewed for, more suitable opportunities may occur in the future. Good follow-up will provide the opportunity to inquire about other leads or sources from the interviewer or hiring manager. This is why it is so important to develop and maintain a good relationship with every prospective employer.

When executives were asked how they prefer to receive thank you messages, 52% said a handwritten note, 44% said an email and just 3% said both.

Regardless of how someone believes he or she per­formed during the interview, sending a short thank you note afterward demonstrates initiative and courtesy. Conveying appreciation in a well-written message is not only polite but can also distinguish a job applicant from others vying for the same position. The best strategy is to send an email shortly after the inter­view, followed by more formal correspondence. Email is immediate, but hiring managers still like the personal touch of a hand-written note.

However, remember that nothing can be more frustrating than having an offer withdrawn (or not offered at all) over misspellings and poor grammar contained in a thank you note a candidate composes.

If you don’t hear anything after five days (which is quite normal), call the company representative. Reiterate the points made in the letter, saying that you want the job (or next interview), and finish your statements with a question: “Mr. Smith, I feel confident about my ability to contribute to your department’s efforts, and I really do want the job. Could you tell me what I have to do to get it?” Then be quiet and wait for the answer.

REJECTION

During the interviewing process, there are bound to be interviewers who come to the conclusion that you are not the right person for the job they need to fill. When that happens, you will be turned down. (You may be informed, or never hear back at all!)

This may happen:

  • At the interview
  • In a letter of rejection
  • During your follow-up telephone call

Whenever the turn-down comes, you must be emotionally and intellectually prepared. When you get turned down for the only opportunity you have going, the rejection can be devastating to your ego. You will get turned down. No one can be right for every job. The right person for a job doesn’t always get it though--the best prepared and most determined often does.

Your rejection is attributable to one of these reasons:

  • The interviewer does not feel you can do the job.
  • The interviewer feels you lack a successful profile.
  • The interviewer did not feel your personality would contribute to the smooth functioning of the department--perhaps you didn't portray yourself as either a team player, or as someone willing to take the extra step.

Don't take it personally. Rejection can immediately spark feelings of self-blame. Questions such as, "What’s wrong with me?", ''Why don't they think I'm good enough for the job?''' or "Was It something I said?" may be just a few of the things job seekers ask themselves to make sense of the situation. Remember, sometimes not landing a job offer really has nothing at all to do with the candidate.

For example, a job seeker may have been stellar throughout each round of interviews and made a lasting impression on hiring managers. Because the organization pressured the manager to promote an internal employee, however, the stellar job seeker was not offered a position. Any number of factors, including some that were in your control and some that weren't, could have played into the company's decision to pass you over in favor of somebody else.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Evaluation Factors Used By Interviewers

This is a list of negative factors evaluated by interviewers reported by 153 companies surveyed which may lead to rejection.

  1. Poor personal appearance
  2. Overbearing - overaggressive - conceited "superiority complex”--"know-it-all”
  3. Inability to express himself clearly -- poor voice, diction, grammar
  4. Lack of planning for career -- no purpose and goals
  5. Lack of interest and enthusiasm – passive, indifferent
  6. Lack of confidence and poise – nervousness, ill-at-ease
  7. Failure to participate in activities
  8. Overemphasis on money -- interest only in best dollar offer
  9. Poor scholastic record -- just got by
  10. Unwilling to start at the bottom -- expects too much too soon
  11. Makes excuses -- evasiveness -- hedges on unfavorable factors in record
  12. Lack of tact
  13. Lack of maturity
  14. Lack of courtesy -- ill mannered
  15. Condemnation of past employers
  16. Lack of social understanding
  17. Marked dislike for school work
  18. Lack of vitality
  19. Fails to look interviewer in the eye
  20. Limp, fishy handshake
  21. Indecision
  22. Offered too much about personal life
  23. Talked too much about unrelated hobbies
  24. Friction with parents
  25. Sloppy application blank
  26. Merely shopping around
  27. Wants job only for short time
  28. Little sense of humor
  29. Lack of knowledge of field of specialization
  30. Parents make decisions for him
  31. No interest in company or in industry
  32. Emphasis on whom he knows
  33. Unwillingness to go where we send him
  34. Cynical
  35. Low moral standards
  36. Lazy
  37. Intolerant -- strong prejudices
  38. Narrow interests
  39. Overly defensive
  40. Poor handling of personal finances
  41. No interest in community activities
  42. Inability to take criticism
  43. Lack of appreciation of the value of experience
  44. Radical ideas
  45. Late to interview without good reason
  46. Never heard of company
  47. Failure to express appreciation for interviewer's time
  48. Asks no questions about the job
  49. High pressure type
  50. Indefinite response to questions

INTERVIEW DO’s AND DON’Ts - HOW TO BLOW AN INTERVIEW

DO

 

DON’T

Take a deep breath and a few minutes of thinking time before answering a question

 

Respond to a serious question with a flip joke

Ask for clarification if necessary

 

Make a negative impression early on- you will have a difficult time reversing the impression

Handle an offensive question firmly, but tactfully

 

If you perceive hints that you aren’t being well received, stop what you are doing that may be causing the negative reaction

Dress/groom yourself appropriately

 

Be intimidated by your competition

Prepare good answers for questions that may probe for skeletons in your closet

 

Let the advice of others shake your confidence

Find out what your references would say about you

 

Worry about failure

Recognize dual purpose questions and answer them decisively

 

Wear perfume or after-shave

Observe the interviewer’s body language and react accordingly

 

Wear scuffed, dirty or worn-out shoes

Assume that you are going to be exposed to a sophisticated professional interview technique

 

Wear excess jewelry

Assume every question asked is job-related

 

Eat foods that will leave an odor on you/your breath before an interview

Assume that everyone with whom you speak is making a judgment on you

 

Retract in the face of silence or mutter in the face of silence

Continue to tell yourself that you are doing well

 

Fidget through stressful silence

Even if you don’t believe in yourself, try to make the interviewer think that you do

 

Arrive late

Keep your doubts to yourself

 

Forget the interviewer’s name

Know more about the company than the interviewer knows about you

 

Offer to shake hands unless the interviewer offers a hand first

Write down the time and place of the interview and name of interviewer

 

Chew gum or have a mint in your mouth

Bring a pen and paper with you

 

Forget selling yourself

Write a synopsis of the interview immediately afterward

 

Think about yourself too much

Retain the interviewer’s attention by varying the tempo of your speech and tone of your voice

 

Make any comments to the interviewer that could be intimidating

Get the interviewer to talk about him/herself

 

Go to the interview thinking that the interviewer knows exactly what s/he wants out of the interview and will ask the appropriate questions

Learn as much as you can about the company

 

Ask questions for the sake of impressing your interviewer with the question itself

Show enthusiasm

 

Flaunt your preparation or be pompous during the interview

Tell the interviewer specifically why you are interested in their company

 

Worry about thinking for a few seconds before you answer

Make a list of the things you have to offer an employer

 

Worry about eye contact; just act naturally

Show that you are interested and communicate your interest to the interviewer

 

Talk badly about a former employer

Make a lasting impression on the one who is making the hiring decision

 

 

Listen carefully to each interview question

 

 


In Short: The Best Ways to Blow an Interview

It happens all the time. A candidate looks perfect on paper, but once he gets into the interview, the hiring manager can’t wait to hustle him out the door.

Punctuality: It may be only five minutes to you, but showing up late for an interview is never a good way to make a first impression. Do what you have to do to get out the door early. The worst-case scenario is that you have to sit in the parking lot and listen to your iPod until it’s time to go in.

Dress: Dressing appropriately is downright crucial. Hiring managers complain that candidates come to interviews dressed too casually.

Not doing your homework: The company does what? With all the research available, never walk into an interview without at least a working knowledge of the company, its products, and its industry.

An interviewer will often ask, “What do you know about our business (firm, company, etc.)?” If the candidate stares blankly or gives a very broad answer, they already have an uphill battle to win the enthusiasm and support of their interviewer. The solution is, of course, research, research, research.

The night before an interview, visit the company’s website and look over its financial statements, press releases and corporate mission.

Talking too much: You can blow a promising opportunity by talking too much during a job interview. Many nervous job seekers blabber endlessly about irrelevant information. They create a poor impression and cut short the hiring manager’s time for further questions. A hiring manger won’t pay any attention to you unless you prove you’re sharp during the first five minute. Over sharing in an interview is the most dangerous thing you can do.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT INTERVIEWING

When interviewing for a job, particularly when you're unemployed, your tendency will be to interview with blinders on. Your overpowering need for this job, which stems not only from your financial but also from your emotional state -- desperately wanting to be needed again -- can blind you to the negatives of the job or company. During the interview you're concentrating on selling yourself, but what you also need to do is size up the company.

Pay attention to such details as how comfortable you felt, the ambiance of the offices, the attitude and manner of the interviewer(s), and the message they conveyed. Then take some quiet time and ask yourself: Is this a company that I would like to work for and are these the people I would like to work with? Try to answer as honestly as you can. Only then will you know not just whether the company wants you, but whether you want the company.

If you decide that this job isn't right for you, then say no graciously and move on. Don't spend time worrying about whether or not you did the right thing; instead, use your energies to prepare for the next interview opportunity.

 
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